When the news broke that Kawhi Leonard had suffered a partial ACL tear and had undergone surgery to repair it, the speculation was that he would miss the entirety of the 2021-22 NBA season. All of the reports since then have indicated a similar timetable for the 2x Finals MVP; however, LA Clippers chairman Steve Ballmer provided an optimistic update at Friday's groundbreaking ceremony.
When asked if Kawhi Leonard could potentially return at some point next season, Ballmer said that "Nobody knows at this stage... It's possible. For sure, it's possible. But it will depend on what the doctors say and what Kawhi says." While Ballmer was unable to commit to a clear timetable, this is certainly a much more encouraging update than all of the previous reports.
While each injury case is unique, history can provide us with some context as to why Ballmer is leaving the door open for a potential Kawhi Leonard return next season. The most recent example of a player recovering from a partially torn ACL, is Washington Wizards guard Spencer Dinwiddie. Dinwiddie, who was a member of the Brooklyn Nets at the time of his injury, suffered a partial ACL tear in December of 2020. As the Nets were progressing in their playoff run, there were reports that Dinwiddie could potentially be available for the NBA Finals, which were played in July.
Because Kawhi has a history of leg injuries, it is likely that the Clippers will rightfully be cautious with his return; however, having suffered the injury in June of 2021, any timetable under a full calendar year could put Kawhi in a position to return next season. If nothing else, it is encouraging to hear Steve Ballmer leave the door open to that possibility.